Our veneration of Mary, the Mother of God, Mother of us all, and Mother of the Church, is often mistaken as Mary-worship by non-Catholics. They often see praying the Rosary as a form of idolatry.
While we certainly don’t worship our Blessed Mother, we definitely acknowledge her importance in the birth of Christianity and the life of the Church. In his book, Mary, Mirror of the Church, by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Mary is silent in Jesus’ life, except in the ” events that form the Christian mystery: the incarnation, the paschal mystery, and Pentecost…..Following Mary in each of these fundamental steps will help us to really and resolutely follow Christ so that we can live his entire mystery.”
Praying the Rosary enriches our meditation and understanding of these mysteries. The Rosary isn’t praying to Mary as much as invoking her assistance to bring us closer to Jesus through the mysteries contemplated in the prayer. As Wise Friend often reminds me, “Jesus is our life; Mary is the way.”
The Rosary which is most commonly prayed is the Dominican Rosary; however, other forms of this beautiful prayer are less known but equally effective. The oldest form of the Rosary is the Clausular Rosary. Another form is the Brigittine Rosary.
I was recently introduced to the Brigittine Rosary. Here is Fr. Marco Testa’s explanation of this lesser known, beautiful form of the Rosary:
The Brigittine (or Saint Bridget of Sweden) Rosary looks similar to a regular Rosary, but with an extra decade. The resultant seven Pater beads honor the Seven Sorrows of the blessed Virgin Mary, and the sixty-three Ave Maria beads commemorate the sixty-three years it is believed the Blessed Mother lived on earth before her Assumption. In praying the Brigittine Rosary, there are a total of eighteen decades: In the six Joyful Mysteries, the first is the Immaculate Conception; the sixth of the sorrowful Mysteries commemorates when the Body of the Lord was placed in the Arms of His sorrowful Mother: and the sixth of the glorious Mysteries is recited in honor of the Patronage of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace (and, for the Carmelite, Mary, queen and Beauty of Carmel). The other mysteries are the same as in the Dominican Rosary. However, at the end of each decade, the apostles Creed, not the Glory Be, is recited.
Saint Teresa of Jesus prayed the Rosary daily. It is believed that while she was traveling throughout Spain, she enjoyed the hospitality of at least one Brigittine Monastery, and from the Brigittines learned to say their six-decade rosary. The six-decade Rosary was later adopted as the rosary of the discalced Carmelite habit, with a large medal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in addition to, or even in place of, the crucifix found on the Dominican Rosary. Only six of the eighteen decades are worn, as opposed to the entire fifteen decades of the Dominican Rosary, worn with the religious habits of some other Orders.
Fr. Testa explained that in praying the Luminous Mysteries, he designates the first mystery as the Immaculate Conception, similar to the Joyful Mysteries.
While the Dominican Rosary will continue to be the most common form of the Rosary, sometimes variety gives us a different perspective in our meditation on the life of Jesus as led by His Blessed Mother.
In Canada, the Brigittine Rosary can be ordered from the Sister Disciples of The Divine Master at Liturgical Apostolate Center, North York, Ontario.
Internationally, they can be found on ebay, etsy and here at sistersofcarmel.com.